17 February – Gerard Steen

Resistance to Metaphor

‘Let’s find another metaphor to the war on cancer’—wrote Director Thaseen Al-Saleem of the Fox Chase Cancer Center Philadelphia in the Oncology Times (of March 25, 2007). His personal experience with real war in Iraq elicited too stark a contrast with his healing activities as a medical doctor in the US to be able to frame those healing activities as a form of war. Recent academic enthusiasm for the ubiquity of metaphor probably explains why no research to date has been done on the possibilities for people to resist metaphor, in particular its dispreferred or disagreeable uses. Metaphor may be everywhere and have fundamental linguistic, conceptual and communicative functions, but this does not mean that it is always inevitable and always a good thing. Specific metaphors, or specific uses of metaphor, may need criticism and opposition in specific situations. This is more relevant for some metaphors than others, as when objections are made against the ‘war on cancer’ or the ‘tsunami of Islamization’, but even for cases like these, resistance to metaphor has yet to be placed on the research agenda.

In this talk Gerard Steen will present the outlines of a new program application for the NWO Vrije Competitie scheme. It is the aim of his talk to present the overall problem, goal, research question, and approach of the intended application for discussion. The emphasis will lie on the unique and groundbreaking possibilities for bringing metaphor and argumentation research together. We will also consider the eligibility of a number of projects within the program, and see who would like to help finish the application in the next two months for submission by Easter.